Reading & Writing

February Reading List

Here’s what I’m reading (and blogging about, should the Fates allow) in February, in case you want to read along:


(Because you have to read a love story in honor of Valentine’s Day)


(Re-reading this one, actually–a little nostalgia)


(Always exciting to read something new by Michael Chabon. I’m a little behind the times–this came out in 2012–but it’s new to me.)


(Pushed Carrie Fisher back until March, because it’s Black History Month and it seems like a good time to read this one–I hear it’s wonderful.)

Art & Pop Culture · Reading & Writing

What’s My Age Again? (and Other References that Prove I’m Old)


Usually, when I write fiction, I try to avoid too much reference to pop culture. I don’t like to date my work and I don’t want readers to have to look anything up if they aren’t familiar. I also tend to avoid references to technology. But lately I’ve been writing a young adult novel featuring a character who is really into music and another who is a little computer-addicted. I’m loving these characters, but the technical side of it is making me feel so incredibly old. Every few paragraphs, I have to put a note in the margin to remind myself of something to fact check. For example:

Do people use iPods?

That iPod speaker thing–what is it called?

Is Taylor Swift still popular? Will she be in five years?

Are teenagers still on Facebook?

Do people play minesweeper?

and my personal favorite:

Justin Bieber??? Continue reading “What’s My Age Again? (and Other References that Prove I’m Old)”

Cooking & Eating

National Croissant Day

Today is National Croissant Day. I know that because Starbucks has all these signs up trying to get you to buy their croissants on National Croissant Day–some kind of deal, I don’t know. I didn’t pay that much attention. All I thought when I saw the words “National Croissant Day” was, At last! I will try my hand at making croissants!

I looked through several of my cookbooks for a recipe and naturally, I ended up in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II. I have several books that contain recipes for complicated pastries and breads, but this was the only one that specifically addressed the croissant: a bread almost nobody ever makes at home. Because why would you? The bakeries have it down. Plus, they take approximately twelve hours to make. At least, that’s what Julia’s recipe tells you. Continue reading “National Croissant Day”

Friends & Family

Week in Review: The Importance of Play Dates


I hadn’t realized how long it had been since the kids and I had gone on a play date until this week, when we finally went on one. We’d been stuck in the house for the past two weeks, at least one of us sniffling and coughing enough to make us keep our germs to ourselves, and before that the closest we’d come to playing with friends was an indoor playground where I brought the kids by myself and they didn’t really play with anyone but me. It’s possible we haven’t seen any friends since before Christmas, but I won’t say that too firmly since my sense of time can be blurry and if we did have you over/go to your house to play, I’m sorry I misremembered. Either way, we were going a little nutty. And then yesterday, I took the girl to the park while the boy was in school. We played. OUTSIDE. It was friggin’ fabulous.

Often I don’t take the girl to play dates with what are essentially the boy’s friends. The mommies are MY friends, but it can still feel strange, especially when the one or two younger siblings who are close enough to the girl’s age aren’t there. I need to change that. One: the girl proved to me this week that she is tough enough to run with the big boys. Two: I need to get out of the house. It’s amazing what even an hour in the company of other adults can do for my mindset, even if we talk about nothing amazing, even if we barely talk at all. There’s an unspoken empathy there.

When the boy was a baby, I took great pains to make sure he was socialized. We tried to get out of the house and do some sort of educational/social activity five days a week. We did library story times, zoo trips, play dates at people’s houses and playgrounds–whatever we could. We had our meetup group (from which his current group of friends emerged) and we almost always had something to do. I was extremely motivated with him in part because I was a new mom, but also because he was so behind in so many ways that I felt like I had to push him to learn and grow. The girl has a tendency to learn and grow on her own. Even today, when we had another play date (amazing! after such a long drought, two in one week!), she was startlingly social considering her general isolation. But there are intangibles at stake. Like Mommy’s sanity. And ultimately, while she enjoys other people, I can see the girl becoming a homebody/Mama’s girl who sees me as her best friend and just doesn’t engage much with others. I don’t believe that’s the worst thing that could happen, but I’d like to know it’s not because I sat at home with her all the time, the TV too often blaring, and gave her the misconception that I am the whole world.

Reading & Writing

The Elegance and the Rhapsody of Muriel Barbery


I’ve been on a French kick lately–the language, the movies, the food, and the books. I’m not really familiar with a lot of French literature, but I am a fan of Muriel Barbery, whose The Elegance of the Hedgehog I devoured when it first came out in America, and whose Gourmet Rhapsody (actually her first book and something of a prequel to Hedgehog though it was the second to be released in the states) I enjoyed many years later. Over the last two weeks I’ve reread both of them and if possible, I’ve enjoyed them even more.

Gourmet Rhapsody is the story of a renowned food critic in his final days. The story swings back and forth between his perspective and those of the many people in his life, most of whom hate him, many of whom refuse to see him even in his dying moments. And for good reason: he admits that he has never loved his children and that the best moments of his life have all occurred away from his wife and family. He is not seeking companionship at the end, at least not in a traditional sense: he is seeking a flavor. A craving, some lingering idea of a food long forgotten, that he must have before he dies. His life unfolds for us in stories about eating. It’s touching, philosophical, and never devolves into food porn. Of course not–it’s French! And as every American knows, the French know best about food. Continue reading “The Elegance and the Rhapsody of Muriel Barbery”

Art & Pop Culture

Five Movies for the Long, Dark Winter

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mindI’ve always said it’s silly that in December, before winter has really begun, we sing “Let it Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” and then, once Christmas is over, we suddenly stop loving the snow. Without tinsel and twinkle lights, we apparently can’t stand the stuff. It gets old, I guess, but it’s like we’ve programmed ourselves to stop having fun come January 1st. We have a holiday marking the new year and, for many of us, marking the many ways we’d like to change. We vow to lose the holiday weight. We join gyms and then feel guilty for never going. Then comes Valentine’s Day, which is a joy to some but a complete nightmare for others, and honestly, even those of us who’ve found the loves of our lives aren’t counting the days till we get a box of Russell Stover’s and a Hallmark card. Once trash pick-up resumes on January 3rd, many of us toss out our high spirits along with a dehydrated tree.

Some people spend the winter fantasizing about warmer weather and tropical climes. As far as movies go, you’ve got a lot to choose from in that category, so you probably don’t need my help. But I think that winter is actually a great (and under-utilized) setting for storytelling. Some of my favorite movies take place in the winter, and I thought I’d share them with you: Continue reading “Five Movies for the Long, Dark Winter”